Syfy already has several reality series about the paranormal, led by Ghost Hunters. Now the cable network has ordered another one: School Spirits from executive producers Mark Burnett (Survivor) and Seth Jarrett (Celebrity Ghost Stories). The six-episode series will tell true ghost stories of hauntings that have happened at schools across the country. The stories will be told through cinematic re-enactments and testimonials of real students, teachers, parents and staff that have encountered paranormal activity.
Parents beware: Tween and teen-aged girls who watch lots of reality TV “accept and expect a higher level of drama, aggression, and bullying in their own lives, and measure their worth primarily by their physical appearance,” according to a national survey conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute for a report Real To Me: Girls And Reality TV. Reality TV watchers are more likely than non-watchers to believe that “gossiping is a normal part of a relationship between girls” (78% vs 54%), that “girls often have to compete for a guy’s attention” (74% vs 63%), and that girls are happier when they have a boyfriend or significant other (49% vs 28%). Reality TV watchers also focus more on their physical appearance (72% vs 42%). ”Girls today are bombarded with media — reality TV and otherwise — that more frequently portrays girls and women in competition with one another rather than in support or collaboration,” says Andrea Bastiani Archibald, Developmental Psychologist, Girl Scouts of the USA. ”This perpetuates a ‘mean-girl’ stereotype and normalizes this behavior among girls. We don’t want girls to avoid reality TV, but want them, along with their parents, to know what they are getting into when they watch it.”
Oxygen has renewed Jersey Couture for a second season. The fashion reality series is getting revamped. The first season was in the docu genre and centered on the Scalis, who run dress shop Diane & Co. Next year, each half-hour episode will follow shoppers as they select a dress at the shop, guided by sisters Kimberley and Christina and mom Diane Scali. Jersey Couture, from Half Yard Prods, will return for Season 2 in early 2012.
Lifetime already has Project Runway and its various offshoots, including the upcoming Project Runway: All Stars and Project Runway: Accessories. Now the cable network has picked up a new unscripted fashion competition series 24 Hour Catwalk with a 10-episode order. Hosted by TV personality Alexa Chung, 24 Hour Catwalk puts four designers to the test of creating their own collection … in one day. After a first-cut challenge and elimination, the competition whittles down to two, each tasked with creating a themed collection for their own runway show. Tapped for judges on the show are designer Cynthia Rowley, New York Times fashion editor Derek Blasberg and publicist James LaForce. Jane Street Entertainment is producing, with Linda Lea and Donna Macletchie executive producing.
Oxygen has greenlighted Best Ink, a competition reality series featuring 10 tattoo artists competing for a cash prize. The hourlong project, originally announced as in development at Oxygen’s upfront in April, has received an eight-episode order for a winter premiere. Former American Idol contestant Kimberly Caldwell, described as a “tattoo fanatic,” has been tapped as host. Tattoo artist Joe Capobianco will serve as a head judge, joined by model/tattoo-shop owner Sabina Kelley. Bunim/Murray is producing, with Jonathan Murray, Gil Goldschein and Rico Martinez serving as executive producers.
Zodiak USA is hoping that lightning can strike twice, bringing to the U.S. a restaurant reality format that has become a breakout hit on Holland’s RTL4, the same network that launched The Voice. Zodiak will pitch the format, Restaurant Race, to U.S. broadcast networks this week. I hear two of them, ABC and NBC, are on the hunt for a culinary series after striking out with such recent entries as Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and America’s Next Great Restaurant, respectively. In the original Dutch version, which will be tweaked for U.S. audiences, Restaurant Race centers on two struggling restaurants that compete against one another. Helped by a mentor, they have 72 hours and $10,000 to reboot their business by themselves. The restaurant that performs the best in the eyes of the critic will pocket a big cash prize for further improvements. The format bears some similarities to the original Australian series The Chopping Block, though not the short-lived NBC version. NBC has been particularly consistent in its efforts to find a restaurant-based reality franchise with the 2003 Mark Burnett/Ben Silverman series The Restaurant, The Chopping Block and, most recently, America’s Next Great Restaurant. The only successful effort in the space on U.S. broadcast TV so far is Fox’s Kitchen Nightmares starring Gordon Ramsay.
A. Smith & Co Prods Merges With UK-Based Tinopolis Group For $100M Deal Creating Reality TV Powerhouse
Insiders are speculating the deal is worth upwards of $100 million:
London / Los Angeles – June 28, 2011 – The Tinopolis Group and A. Smith & Co. Productions announced today that the two entities have joined forces by bringing A. Smith & Co. and its decade of success developing and producing some of the most notable unscripted television programming seen around the world under the Tinopolis Group, creating a transatlantic television powerhouse. A. Smith & Co. will continue to operate as a stand-alone entity based in Los Angeles joining and working with Tinopolis Group’s other companies which include television production entity Mentorn and sports television producer Sunset + Vine. The announcement was made today by Ron Jones, Executive Chairman of Tinopolis Group, and Arthur Smith, Founder and CEO of A. Smith & Co., who will join the Tinopolis Board of Directors and continue to lead the company alongside his partner and company President, Kent Weed.
Under this agreement A. Smith & Co. becomes the leading North American television production entity within the Tinopolis organization with the ability to tap into the company’s resources on a worldwide basis. This transaction brings together the financial resources and expertise of Tinopolis, one of the UK’s leading producers of media and programming, and its primary investor, private equity firm Vitruvian Partners, and A. Smith & Co.’s leadership which has pioneered genres and delivered ratings hits such as “Paradise Hotel”, “The Swan,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Trading Spaces,” “Kitchen Nightmares,” “I Survived a Japanese Game Show,” and “Pros vs. Joes.”
Disney Channel, who has built its business on scripted comedies and movies, is venturing into reality with PrankStars, a celebrity-driven hidden-camera series that sounds like CW’s upcoming H8R but with fans instead of haters. The series, whose premiere episode features Disney Channel stars Selena Gomez, Debby Ryan and Mitchel Musso, revolves around unsuspecting tweens and teens who are set up by family members and come face to face with their favorite celebrities “in unpredictable and humorous situations.” PrankStars, produced by Zoo Prods., premieres July 15. Barry Poznick (Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?), John Stevens (Lingo), Charles Steenveld (Family Game Night) and Rick de Oliveira (All-Star Celebrity Treasure Hunt) are exec producing.
Every time there is a regime change at NBC, a canceled reality staple is brought back for another go. After Ben Silverman took over the network, he resurrected the then-recently yanked The Apprentice. Now, under new boss Bob Greenblatt, the network is going further back in the past to bring back to life one of NBC’s first reality hits: Fear Factor. The network has ordered a new season of the series, with Endemol USA back as producer and Matt Kunitz and David Hurwitz as executive producers. It is unclear if Joe Rogan will return as host. The show will feature pairs of teammates competing in a series of stunts. News of the Fear Factor revival leaked earlier today after reality TV-centered site RealityBlurred discovered that the show’s casting page has been relaunched with the announcement of Fear Factor’s return, its top prize of $50,000 and casting information. The series, known mostly for the gross-out nature of most of its stunts, became the first reality series of the current wave to show backend potential with syndication deals.
SIMON COWELL: My Exclusive Interview; He Reveals America’s ‘The X Factor’ Judges; But Will It Turn Into ‘The ZZZZZZ Factor’?
I’ll have more from my exclusive interview with Simon Cowell later tonight. But, for now, I can report that Cowell has told me all about how he’s been assembling his judge’s panel for his U.S. version of The X Factor which debuts this fall on Fox. “First of all, it’s like casting a dinner party. You’ve got to have people on the panel you get on well with.” But in my opinion this is sounding like the most boring dinner party ever and I wouldn’t bother staying tuned through dessert. Though recently he admitted that the process has shown publicly “complete and utter indecisiveness”, he made it clear to me he has finally decided on his judging panel.
Cowell tells me that in addition to himself and Antonio “L.A.” Reid, the chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group who resigned to join The X Factor panel on Fox (and about whom Simon said “was my No. 1 choice to sit alongside me on the show”), he has made up his mind to bring back Paula Abdul beside him and to add a Brit singer convicted of assault who’s unknown to American audiences, Cheryl Cole. Of course, Cowell was once an unknown here, too. I understand from Cowell that negotiations for Abdul’s deal haven’t even started and that Cole’s deal isn’t quite done yet. And of course, he could change his mind.
But an insider tells me about Cole that “she’s pretty much a shoo-in for for the show” and will be announced as a judge within less than a week. When I asked Simon about “this Cole woman” who began judging on the 5th season of Cowell’s British version of The X Factor which is now in its 8th season, he laughed at my description of her. I opined about how hard it is for UK personalities to click with U.S. audiences. Though she has her own widely imitated catchphrase there telling wannabe contestants they are “really, really luv-erly” in her incomprehensible Newcastle accent and has become a UK tabloid obsession, over here she’ll just be another nobody. (As Jennifer Lopez asked recently, “She is a singer, right?”)
But Cowell responded: “I never think about it as an American or British audience. I genuinely don’t. I think that’s what’s happened on a lot of these shows now is it’s almost like you’ve got to hire well known celebrities to be a judge. And with Cheryl, when I hired her initially, I’d only met her literally once when I offered her the job on [British] X Factor. I thought she was bright, cute, knew what she was talking about, ambitious. And you meet someone special a few times in your life.. And this girl is special. She’s just got a great ability to communicate. Shes a great judge. She’s smart. It’s just a hunch. If people take to her like the British public did, I think she’s going to do really well in America. And Fox was desperate to hire her.”
“Really?” I asked. “I heard there was pushback from Fox.”
“No, absolute opposite,” Cowell claimed. “Mike Darnell and Peter Rice will tell you they wanted her all the time, I showed a tape to Mike Darnell two years ago of a clip I’d shot in England of Cheryl and he said there and then, ‘I’d hire her now for Idol.’ They absolutely fell in love with her. In a way, the deal, it was almost conditional on Cheryl having the gig. They were desperate for her.”
“So,” I said, “wouldn’t it then be expected to have someone quote-unquote famous also on the panel besides you?”
“Yes. Very,” Simon replied. “I’ve always wanted Paula. Always been very vocal about that. I missed her the second she left the show. Always loved working with her even though she can be a pain. And I’ve been consistent about this. I don’t know what it is about her, but I’ve always clicked with her. You just have to get that chemistry, and she’s right. I’ve never found anyone better than her. I think there’s a good chance it will be her. We’ve agreed that we would meet as many people as possible, and now we’re reaching the deadline we’ve got to make the decision soon. But I think she’s got a really good shot.”
But Cowell poo-poo’ed my suggestion that Abdul now may be too overexposed after serving as a judge on American Idol for 8 years and then departing amid a huge outcry from fans who wanted her to stay, and then moving on to headline another TV talent series as lead judge, CBS’s lame and derivative Live to Dance, which debuted in January 2011 only to be canceled after one season. Simon and Abdul are close friends and he made no secret on and off Idol that he didn’t want her to leave and that he disliked her successors, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres.
Make no mistake: I admire Simon as a consummate showman who knew exactly how to manipulate
The Style Network today held its first upfront presentation since the channel was put under the purview of NBCU’s Lauren Zalaznick following the NBCU-Comcast merger. Style announced it has picked up Big Rich Texas with a 10-episode order. The docu-series, set to premiere in July, explores the ultra-exclusive world at the top of the Dallas social scene. It is produced by Fly on the Wall, with Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan exec producing. Two years ago, the network shot a similar series, Divas and Daughters, about Dallas socialite mothers and daughters. Also announced today are How Do I Look?, a search for the country’s worst fashion offenders hosted by Jeannie Mai, which will premiere in September; and makeover series Glam Fairy, a spinoff of Style’s flagship series Jerseylicious. The Endemol USA show, which follows New Jersey makeup artist Alexa Prisco, will premiere in October. Style also announced a development slate of 10 unscripted series. Here are the descriptions:
N.S. Bienstock is looking to hire a reality TV agent and is calling every midlevel-and-above rep in that specialty to defect. Just one problem: no one wants to work for that nightmare Richard Leibner. The agency still hasn’t recovered from the 2009 loss of alternative TV stand-out Eric Wattenberg to CAA. And, by the way, Paradigm recently was talking to Bienstock about joining forces but there’s nothing concrete to report yet.
OK, he still is credited as an executive producer on The Office and The Biggest Loser, but Ben Silverman hasn’t been hanging around NBC headquarters much since his short reign as NBC co-chairman ended in July 2009. But according to the New York Times, Silverman’s Electus — his production company with IAC — is set to announce a deal Monday with the network to produce a primetime reality show titled Fashion Star that will air in 2012. The show, to be hosted by supermodel Elle Macpherson, will see designers from various fields compete for a contract that will put their fashion lines in retail stores. The Times said viewers will be able to buy the contestants’ designs online, with NBC getting a share of sales. Magical Elves, which produced Project Runway when it was on Bravo, will co-produce the new elimination series.
EXCLUSIVE: As part of its push in the alternative programming arena, Lionsgate Television has signed a two-year overall deal with reality producer and development executive Eli Frankel, who most recently served as SVP of development for Magical Elves, the production company behind Project Runway and Top Chef.
Lionsgate TV Group president Kevin Beggs said the company so far had taken a very opportunistic approach to unscriped programming with occasional projects. “It has not been a concerted, strategic effort the way you think of our scripted business,” he said. “But reality television has matured into such a strong business that we wanted to change that.” Instead of hiring a traditional unscripted executive, Beggs said they opted for bringing in a producer-developer who is a self-starter and self-sufficient and went with Frankel, whose experience ranges from development executive to executive producer to editor of reality series. Beggs and Frankel first met on the Lionsgate/Craig Piligian-produced Tommy Hilfiger fashion reality series for CBS The Cut, which Frankel co-executive produced during his tenure at Piligian’s Pilgrim Films & Television. Frankel has been off to a fast start since joining Lionsgate a month ago. “In a month we have had probably more activity than we had for 10 years at Lionsgate,” Beggs said. Lionsgate’s unscripted slate reflects the company’s mandate on the scripted side to “not accept any limitations,” Frankel said. “We have male- and female-skewing shows for broadcast and cable.” The list includes …
It is not MTV’s flagship series anymore (that would be Jersey Shore), but The Real World continues to be a signature series for the cable channel and the show that started the current docu-reality craze. Now MTV announced it is renewing the reality veteran for Seasons 27 and 28. Currently airing its 25th season, and in casting for its 26th season, MTV’s The Real World is to date the longest-running reality series in history. The current season is set in Las Vegas and has ranked No.1 with persons 12-34 in its time period. Last week’s episode averaged a 2.3 rating (in 12-34) and 2.2 million total viewers, up 28% from the previous week’s season premiere. “The Real World has remained relevant for 25 seasons because it continues to capture the lives of young adults, hold a mirror to the challenges they face, and truly reflect the current generation,” the show’s exec producer Jonathan Murray said. He created the series with Mary-Ellis Bunim.
After promising early showings for Winter Wipeout in the challenging for ABC Thursday 8 PM slot, the network is sticking with reality in the hour for the rest of the season. After Winter Wipeout finishes its run, ABC will launch competition series Take the Money and Run on April 14. The six-episode series, from the Amazing Race team of Jerry Bruckheimer and Bertram van Munster, combines elements of a globe-trotting race and a spy thriller.
EXCLUSIVE: Waka waka waka! Pac-Man, is headed to reality TV. Merv Griffin Entertainment has teamed with leading game maker Namco Bandai Games America, which owns the Pac-Man brand, to develop an unscripted series based on the hugely popular video game. This marks the first major foray into TV for Pac-Man whose only previous TV presence was a short-lived animated series in the early 1980s. The project also coincides with the 30th anniversary of the best-selling game and 1980s pop culture icon.
The Pac-Man reality series is envisioned as a “big, crazy Wipeout-type event with a lot of energy,” said Merv Griffin’s president of TV Roy Bank. “The idea we have is to take what Pac-Man is and bring it to life, to bring what is essentially the world’s biggest game of tag to television.” Bank …
How do you say Dog the Bounty Hunter in Spanish? Alfredo Arenas, the commander of the Baja California state police fugitive squad that tracks down U.S. fugitives in the area, is the subject of a potential U.S. reality series shepherded by agent-turned-producer Bill Thompson (E!’s Pretty Wild). 50-year-old Arenas, described as the Mexican version of Dog the Bounty Hunter, has a reputation of a tough guy. Here is how described his interrogation methods in a Los Angeles Times story this past summer: “Here, you don’t have the right to remain silent. You only have the right to tell me everything I ask you.” The project is expected to be pitched to the networks shortly.